Cloke, Pies must make Anzac Day AFL stand

Underperforming Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke has borne the brunt of criticism levelled at the Pies for their poor start to the AFL season and he says it’s time to take it on the chin.

Cloke returned fire at media coverage he felt was overly negative in the week before Sunday’s shock 35-point loss to Melbourne which left the Pies with a 1-3 record.

He again failed to produce in that match, leading coach Nathan Buckley to call for him to stand up more than he had so far this season.

With just five goals this campaign, Cloke’s place in the side is in jeopardy ahead of the Anzac Day blockbuster against Essendon and he agrees the situation demands a strong response from him.

“Once you walk in the door of the Collingwood Football Club, the pressure is always there and I guess there has always been added pressure on myself (but) that’s part of it,” Cloke said on Tuesday.

“I probably bring a lot of it on myself as well, so I’ve just got to get back to the drawing board – get back to the simple things really – probably grow a set and understand that footy is a fantastic life and a fantastic opportunity.”

Form won’t be the only factor in deciding Cloke’s position in the line-up after suffering an elbow injury in the Demons loss.

“I’m a couple of days post now and it seems to be coming along alright with better range day by day,” he reported.

“Fingers crossed, with a (few) more days, it will be sweet.”

Pies skipper Scott Pendlebury echoed Cloke’s sentiments when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday at the MCG.

Pendlebury urged teammates to embrace the pressure and scrutiny their disappointing start to the season has brought on the club.

He said the beleaguered Pies were frustrated and angry, having failed to put together a complete four-quarter effort in the first month of the season.

There will be nowhere to hide on the big stage on Anzac Day at the MCG, but the skipper sees that as the perfect platform to turn their season around.

“All eyes are on us; the pressure is on us, so embrace it,” Pendlebury said.

“We know that the pressure is on us; we know that the pressure is on our football club … we play AFL and all eyes are on us.

“I think all of the guys know and acknowledge that and we hope there is a real spike (in performance) this week.

“I think any side that’s not 4-zip in the competition would be angry and we’re 1-3 so, yeah, we’re frustrated.

“(But) it’s no good going out there with frustration and playing with a foggy head. We need to be clear-minded and ready to go.”

Pendlebury defended embattled coach Nathan Buckley’s game plan, saying it was impossible to assess it accurately without the requisite effort and application from the players.

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